Advisor's Role Feed

King Lear and The King's Men - Lessons on the Slippery Art of Family Governance

King Lear: The History Revealed by Fintan O'Toole, reviewed in The New York Review of Books.

Family Governance for Governing Families. The role of the artist, under a patron. The role of the King's Man. Support, absorb, refactor, and subvert, for the greater good. More power than a Wise Counselor in the traditional Courtier mode. More power than Parliament. Only an all licensed Fool could do more. Were I a wise man I would join Wise Counsel, giving sage advice to families as powerful as our former Monarchs, before we broke from English rule. 

The Wise make good use of literature, as of everything else. If they were wiser yet, they would be Fools. And perhaps The Happy Tutor could show them how. He is a Secular Priest, or actually a real priest, educated at Oxford as a cleric, since under Primogeniture (how our august predecessors beat the proverb, ashes to ashes, and rags to rags), he had to go into the army, become a judge, or be a priest and scholar, with a parish, or a school, or if lazy, as Tutor is, and a drunkard, and carouser, he could set up as a Morals Tutor to his noble neighbor's brats. Mentoring the Heirs, as we now say. The Happy Tutor is also the Lord of Misrule. So are our Wise Counsel, today, if by Misrule we mean the rule of the richest forever. Fool is one thing, Coxcomb, or Villain is another.

In Lear, do we pity the pauper at the base of Fortune's wheel as it turns, or the King at the top who must inevitably fall? When the highest and lowest trade places, 'handy dandy' who goes in ermine, and who in rags? Change places, and who is the thief, and who is the justice? Who is the sighted one? Who is blind?  Who is sane and who mad? Riddle me that, Wise Counsel. But more importantly, can we like Shakespeare, speak truth in riddles to power, and still be awarded our four yards of red cloth to wear the King's livery at court? So far Tutor, buck naked in a Dumpster, must await future delivery. Advantage Wise Counsel.

If I were to write my own Book on Wealth and the Will of God, I would add the epigraph: "Wiser are the Children of Darkness." And believe me, I have learned that to my own cost. Let it be a lesson to us all.

3 Ways to Make A Mid-Sized Fortune from Philanthropic Consulting

  1. Be born to a large fortune
  2. Make a large fortune
  3. Marry a large fortune

Seriously, the most common question I get from advisors is how to make money at this.  The answers are fees for service, life insurance to replace gifted asset and to complete estate and business transition plans, and assets under management.  If the client follow the advice of Jesus in the Gospels to "give all you have to poor and follow me," interpose yourself to defer that gift for as long as possible while you manage the money.  For every dollar sent to the poor, how many pennies can we as advisors extract for how many years for the carriage? The best in this field today are probably "the dual passport advisors," as they are sometimes called, as listed above (wealthy, philanthropic advisors, giving advice to their peers). They may lose money at it, or make very little, but they are already independently wealthy and are doing it for love of the work. Wish I could say otherwise, but they go from rich sometimes to broke in this labor of love. I could give you names, but won't.

The Use of Force in Philanthropic Planning

The Use of Force, a 1,500 word tour de force by W.C. Williams, a physician, poet and short story writer, tells, in the first person, how a country doctor forces a spoon down a young, screaming girl's throat, to lay bare the secret she would die to protect - tonsils covered in the membrane symptomatic of diphtheria. The focus of the tale is on the doctor's own rage, his insensate, unreasoning urge, when crossed by the child, "to go on to the end," to defeat her, break her, violate her intransigently, clenched mouth.  To any parent, teacher, or Morals Tutor to the wealthy, the story resonates endlessly.  As did the child, we all, donors and advisors alike, protect ourselves against a diagnosis that would go against us. We would rather die, as would the child, than betray the mortal secret of our corruption and be healed. Can a cure be forced? And what of the rage, the will to power, that overtakes the reformer, or satirist, when the victim, I mean patient, I mean client, is levered open, and in distress? I think Socrates knew this forbidden pleasure and bodied it forth in saying he was a "maieutic," like his mother, that is, a midwife, who helped his fellow citizens give birth to their better selves. That a male can harbor a better self, that he can be made to give birth in rage and agony like a girl, that his old self may even die in the process of giving birth, is a two thousand year old joke, one that W.C Williams would get.  To forcibly destabilize another's psyche that the sick might be healed, that the walking dead might give birth - is this not the forgotten truth of the Socratic method?  No wonder they made him drink poison. "Physician, heal thyself," as Socrates's executioner might have scoffed, holding out the fatal dose.

Service Before Self, Sire

You know, the King had his Fool to castigate, and the Prince had a Whipping Boy, to get beaten when the Prince messed up. "Why do you do that for me?" the Prince asked, "Why don't you find some other way to teach me how to behave?" His whipping boy replied, hoping to get promoted to Fool, "Service before self, Sire."

Coach as Gadfly

Socrates described himself (prior to his execution, as part of his failed defense) as "the gadfly" upon the posteriors of the body politic. Of course that is why a horse has a tail (to protect his or her own flanks from gadflies). Socrates was executed for defaming the gods, because one of his students went around knocking the organ of generation off the Herms at the crossroads in a time of war. Today, we have to study Socrates in school whether we want to or not. I am sure he would have found that amusing. We make heroes of our pariahs, because they do heal us, but we have to burn them first.

The Art of Philanthropy, State Of

I am working on a curriculum for a credential in philanthropy. In the Course Info section for the capstone course on "The Art of Philanthropy," I am contemplating such words as these. I wonder if they would get me fired, before I even begin? Ought I to keep it a bit more bland, and finesse the real issues? I welcome advice. Derision is ok too.

---- snip---

The purpose of this course is to help you transition from "studying about" philanthropy, and mastering the financial machinery of philanthropic planning, to becoming active in the world as an agent of the good.

The course is designed to bring you to the leading edge of conversations about philanthropy and philanthropic advisory services. I don't mean so much the leading edge of finance and tax law, as the leading edge of conversations among those with money about what they owe themselves, their family, and to their community, as they contemplate what matters most. The advisors who participate in and facilitate such conversations are sitting at the planning table today at the client's right hand. These trusted advisors in philanthropy are few in number, and precious. They come from many disciplines: finance, law, trust work, life insurance, investments, financial planning, planned giving, donor consulting, foundation consulting, general fundraising, wealth coaching, family systems theory, psychology, philosophy, political theory, literature, theology, sociology, mythology, history, dance, theater, music. These leading advisors are distinguished by their ability to bring all of themselves to the table, and to help the donor or client do the same. These advisors are able to think across the disciplinary silos and to facilitate the donor's efforts to create a meaningful action oriented plan. The highest level of planning is wisdom, virtue, justice, truth or beauty. We don't get there in this lifetime. But that is the quest, sometimes Quixotic, often foolish, never completed.

In this course, we will use online discussions to hash out our personal viewpoint in conversation with others. That is preparation for the kind of open ended conversations about meaning, purpose, and the world we want that draws clients and donors to us as philanthropic advisors. It is also preparation for the kind of civic dialogue that brings a community, or a subset of a community, together in common purpose, whether community members are rich or not. In a society so stratified by wealth, such inclusive conversations are critical for the health of democracy.

You will read key texts and articles by some of the leading practitioners of our noble trade. You will not be spared self-reflection. If moral philosophy is a healing trade, there is also an old saying, "Physician heal thyself." The questions in the study guide are designed to lead you to your own understanding, your own synthesis, perhaps even your own self-cure. The way the questions are set up is meant as a model for how you might yourself conduct an open-ended exploration with a prospective donor or client. I call this, "the unlicensed practice of the liberal arts." There is no law against it. No regulatory structure prevents it.  Still, such open discussions can turn the world upside down and hence may be frowned upon by those above us. 

Testing, or validation, in this course, is  "objective," that is, multiple choice. I have made every effort to use the traditional testing system as a way to reinforce the key points that you will need in the real world. I am not trying to make you parrot back my fallible and half-formed opinions as if they were doctrine, dogma, or gospel. That would be self-defeating, and would represent a worst possible practice. Instead, the questions are designed to make sure you have done the readings, focused on the main points, and can use common sense and good judgment. Sample exams are provided throughout.

To make exams less stressful, each chapter also contains a summary in which I consciously highlight the material on which the exams are based. The reduction of complex, often paradoxical and challenging material, to a testable, even memorizable, summary is a challenge. But I have done that so that you as a adult learner will have some confidence that the exam is not a mystery. With that confidence, that the exam is not "tricky," you can keep your focus on exploring in this course the skills and knowledge you need to work as a trusted advisor to wealth and power, and as a leader in our emerging discipline.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to serve as your Tutor in this effort. I am only a fellow seeker, one among many. My goal, my highest goal, is that you will come into your own and far surpass me on this journey towards the ever-elusive "world we want." Let me close with one of my favorite quotations, from a fellow moral philosopher and tutor to the wealthy, Seneca: "Here is my way; where is yours?" That Seneca ended up dead, forced to commit suicide by one of the Roman Emperors he served, should not deter us. That Cicero, another great moral philosopher, was executed by those he served, that Boethius (author of Consolation of Philosophy) was, that Jesus was, should not deter us either. We can always fall back on financial expertise and keep a low profile, if need be.  In this philanthropic advisory business, we proceed at our own risk.  May your efforts prosper.

Phil Cubeta

What is Comprehensive Philanthropic Counsel?

Renata Rafferty on her Comprehensive Philanthropic Counsel:

SERVICES RAFFERTY CONSULTING GROUP assists individuals, families, foundations and corporations in establishing and maintaining a clear focus in their philanthropic activities.  We are available to work with you, your family or your organization on a one-time, limited-term, or continuing basis. 

We also welcome inquiries from financial institutions, financial planners, estate planning attorneys, and allied professionals who provide counsel or services related to charitable giving.  We work in concert with you to ensure that your client's charitable gifts are as effective as possible in meeting their philanthropic goals.   Training and consultation services include:

Principles of Philanthropy
Defining Your Philanthropic Mission, Goals and Risk Tolerance
Current Models and Trends in Giving

Family Meeting & Retreat
Family & Inter-Generational Issues
Establishing A Values-Driven Foundation
Preparing the Next Generation for Stewardship
Founder's Intent Issues
Succession Planning

Corporate Giving Programs
Cause-Related Marketing
Community Relations / HR / Foundation Staff  Training
Employee & Shareholder Participation Programs

Training & Facilitation

Board Orientation: Principles and Practices of Stewardship
Board Retreat & Meeting Facilitation
Grantmaking Policies & Procedures
Board Recruitment & Succession Planning

Performance Evaluation
Compensation & Benefits Analysis
Executive Mentoring & Coaching

Philanthropic Impact Assessment
Internal Diagnostic (Operational) Evaluation

Requests for Funding (RFP) DevelopmentProgram & Proposal Review
Due Diligence Assessment of Prospective Grantees
Negotiation of Gift Terms
Gift/Grant Effectiveness Audit

Comprehensive training & workshops in
Nonprofit/NGO Management & Governance
for your funded organizations

Notice, interestingly, that the list of comprehensive philanthropic services does not include any of these:

  • Cash flow modeling and feasibility testing of possible gifts
  • Structuring of gift within a financial plan
  • Structuring of gift in the light of income tax law
  • Structuring of gift within an estate plan
  • Managing pools of philanthropic capital for risk/return
  • Managing pools of philanthropic capital to align with mission
  • Structuring of a gift as part of a liquidity event for a closely held business
  • Coordination of planning with donor's tax, legal, and financial advisors.

What goes by the name of comprehensive planning for philanthropy differs widely, so widely that you can have two quite long lists of comprehensive services which contain no common elements.  The field is fragmented.

You might say that Renata specializes in the deployment of philanthropic capital. Others who call themselves philanthropic advisors are blind to that, but excel at creating philanthropic capital from a client's current income statement and balance sheet. Others yet specialize in the management of money held in philanthropic accounts.

One way we might all benefit is by becoming more aware of what others do that we don't do and then making it a point to coordinate our efforts for the benefits of the donors, as well as the causes they support.  Financial, tax, legal, investment types have clients who need what Renata offers and vice versa.

The Rich Fool and the Builder of Barns

Luke 12:13-31:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Meanwhile, in an hour, I have a conference call with a large bank to discuss a survey of wealthy people about their philanthropy. We will pore over their responses, not to cure their desires, but to serve them profitably, for we are the builders of barns.  

Morals Tutor to The Fuld Family Dynasty

The art of writing well: To take a foolish position, assigned by your Superior, or Client, and make it sound wise, virtuous and reasonable. So one prospers from grammar school onwards. Journey from Success to Significance. Becomes a President or a Philanthropist. Bankrupts a nation. Becomes a head on Mt Rushmore. Well, enough of this grousing. I had better get back to ghost writing writing Richard Fuld's Family Vision Statement. "To found a noble Dynasty in the Best of Taste." I got that far and my mind wandered. Back to work!

Who Leads this Artful Journey of Philanthropy?

Who Drives?

If a philanthropy is an artful journey, who is in the driver's seat? Donor? Fundraiser? Advisor? And who gives whom a ride? Whose vision of the desired destination? Whose map? If the donor is married, wouldn't it be ideal if the prevailing vision were both his and hers, an expression of their shared commitments to each other's security, to the financial and moral well-being of their children, and to the health of the communities in which they participate? As advisors and fundraisers perhaps we can put ourselves in service to that vision, and reach our goals by helping other's achieve theirs. 

What is Driven?

If a married couple has a giving budget of $15,000, income of $250,000, and assets of $15,000,000 and they have a vision of a better world for self, family and society, what money is encompassed and governed by that vision? If she is driving the giving plan for the $15,000, will her voice be heard at the planning table when the $15,000,000 is planned by an estate tax attorney working with her husband? When I ask this question of women and they ask it of women of wealth, I am finding that the answers are passionate and lengthy. 

He and She

Men often dominate the estate planning procss as both advisors and clients. Men are proud to say, "I don't do touchy-feely." As a result many an estate plan has less heart and vision than it might if the woman were included at the estate planning table as, at the very least, the advocate for plans built around love and concern, as well as dollars and cents.  I do not mean this to be a gendered or stereotyped suggestion. Women can indeed and should indeed master rigorous tax, legal, and financial strategies. Men can indeed and should indeed listen to their own better nature. The Muses are women, so are the Graces.  In an inspired plan, one that governs all the money, now, later, at death and beyond, both head and heart, ying and yang, prudential and idealistic, hard and soft, self-regarding and other-regarding, rigorous and intuitive, objective and subjective, male and female, Mars and Venus, are well-represented and in dialectical strife and harmony.


  • The donor(s) awkened ideals should drive the legacy process.
  • All the donor's assets, liabilities, income and expenses, as well as gifts should be included in the overall plan of which the giving plan is a piece.
  • The highest vision of husband and wife, or both partners, should govern the plan.
  • To create such a marriage of true minds is an art as much as a science.
  • At the planning table we need advisors with rigor and advisors who are skilled in the liberal art of eliciting ideals, managing open-ended dialogue, and guiding clients through the process to clarity as to shared ends in view.
  • Socrates called this process, in honor of his mother who was a midwife, "midwiffery," or as it has been translated, "the maeutic method."


The ideas above ring true to those trained in the liberal arts. Often it is the fundraiser, or a life coach, who has made that stupid choice of major. Idealists understand. And idealists are often found in nonprofit work. As a result, it may be the fundraisers, and nonprofit leaders, who double as "midwife" for an inspired plan. It may be the technical advisors who create the final plan, but it may be the human being making a living in the nonprofit sector, who conducts the maeutic process by which the donor(s) come to clarity about what they really want for themselves, heirs and community.